History records that following the restoration of King Charles II and the various Acts of Parliament of 1662, non-conformity grew rapidly in this area and a number of small non-conforming groups were recorded e.g. at Bassingbourn, Litlington and at Meldreth.
As they were fugitive and illegal these groups kept few records, but more is known of them following the Act of Toleration of 1689. Then reference is made to a group meeting at Meldreth, which subsequently appears to have moved to Melbourn. In 1694 they formed a church and in 1716 this church purchased land in Orchard Road for the erection of a place of worship. There is a letter addressed to the Bishop of Ely and dated 20 July 1717 which says “There is lately erected a house of burial in Melbourn in the County of Cambridgeshire by Protestant Dissenters on purpose to meet together to worship God”.
The front of the present building was reconstructed in 1815, and at the same time the lantern (cupola) was added, completing a lovely specimen of early 19th century non-conformist architecture.
In the second half of the 19th century the church erected a larger building (seating up to 800) on land opposite, now the burial ground, and used the older building for Sunday School work. However growing costs of maintenance and changing patterns of the mid 20th century faced the church with problems. After careful study it was decided to demolish the newer Victorian chapel, and to restore the Old Meeting House as a place of worship. This work began in 1954. The cupola was re-built but reserving the character of the original. The organ (from the newer chapel) was re-built. Every effort was made to preserve the character of the original.
The building, as you see it, today is used every week for worship but over the years the church has changed its name. Beginning with the Independent Meeting House it then became the Congregational Church and in 1972 the United Reformed Church came into being with the union of the Congregationalists and Presbyterians.
A more detailed history of the church can be found in a booklet created by Rev. Reginald Rooke. Click here to download it [PDF reader required]
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